While Canon-McMillan School District taxes are on the rise, the increase is not as much as previously anticipated.
The school board plans to vote May 21 on raising the property tax by 1.59 mills as part of adopting a $62.6 million budget for 2012-13. The tentative budget, approved in April, called for a 2.2-mill increase.
The new rate means the owner of property with a market value of $100,000 (assessed value of $25,000) can expect to pay $39.75 more at face value for the coming academic year.
Joni Mansmann, district director of business and finance, presented a financial “snapshot report” to the board at its agenda meeting Monday. The report outlines factors leading to the tax increase, most notably Canon-McMillan’s contributions to the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System, as mandated by state law, and the decline of state aid to school districts.
“While we did get a small increase last year, they regressed funding back to 2008 levels. So our increase is not at a realistic 2012-13 level,” Mansmann said after the meeting.
Raising taxes by 2.2 mills would have represented the maximum allowed by the district under state Act 1 of 2006, the Taxpayer Relief Act, without special circumstances. Mansmann said she arrived at the 1.59-mill figure after receiving Washington County’s estimated value of assessed properties in the district, which encompasses Canonsburg Borough and Cecil and North Strabane townships.
“I called the county and got an estimate, and it was higher than I had originally projected. So that enabled us, with those additional taxable assessed property levels, to back off the revenue that we would need” through raising taxes, Mansmann said.
The 2012-13 budget calls for a fund balance, or surplus, of $391,556. That money is earmarked for the district’s obligation to the school employees’ retirement system, which is expected to reach $5.1 million by 2015-16.
With the tax increase, the district’s rate will stand at 107 mills. Although the district held the line for 2011-12, taxes rose each of the previous five academic years.
Canon-McMillan, though, ranks in the bottom half of Washington County school districts with regard to the property tax rate, according to Mansmann’s financial report.
She also updated board members Monday about a case in which the parent company of The Meadows Racetrack and Casino appealed its property assessment, but declined to share pertinent financial information. An attorney for the district filed a motion to compel, and a ruling last week by Washington County President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca gives the company 30 days to provide the numbers.
“It could mean a substantial reduction in their taxes if they were to be successful in their appeal,” Mansmann said. “And I think it’s important to point out that despite local publicity regarding the casino that they do a lot of philanthropy, we, the school district, just receive real estate revenue from them.”